Former Israel president gets early release from rape sentence

Moshe Katsav’s sentence reduced from seven to five years by parole board

Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav (centre)on his way to  prison in 2011. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav (centre)on his way to prison in 2011. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

 

Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav, who was convicted of rape and indecent acts against a number of women, will soon become a free man after the parole board accepted his early release request on Sunday.

Katsav, who had served five years of a seven-year jail term, broke out in tears when he heard his request had been granted.

Katsav (71) will remain in prison for at least another week while state prosecutors consider whether to appeal against the parole board’s decision.

“The decision was made after the board members were impressed by the honesty of the prisoner’s words and after he met the expectations set by board members,” the parole board statement said. “The prisoner now understands the meaning of his actions and the hurt he caused the women, and regrets this.”

Rejected

Two previous parole requests had been rejected, reflecting the fact that Katsav stubbornly refused to admit to the rape allegations or express remorse. However, recently he changed tack and asked for forgiveness from anyone he hurt, saying he understood his victims’ feelings.

A former member of the right-wing Likud party, Katsav was jailed in 2011 after one of the most dramatic trials in Israel’s history. He was convicted of the rape of a former employee when he was a cabinet minister in the 1990s, and of sexually harassing two other women while president. He consistently denied any wrongdoing and claimed he was the victim of a political witch-hunt.

Following the earlier parole board rejection it was reported that Katsav had been placed on a suicide watch and given psychological counselling.

Katsav’s release will be subject to a series of restrictions, such as checking in with a parole officer, continuing to attend a rehabilitation programme and therapy session, and a ban on speaking to the media. He will not be allowed to leave his home town of Kiryat Malachi without permission and will be not be allowed to leave his home between 10pm-6am. He will also be banned from travelling abroad.

Women politicians criticised the early parole decision as “sending out the wrong message”.

“Today a cowardly and toxic decision was made after the parole board succumbed to manipulation and decided to reduce his sentence, granting him a fictional rehabilitation programme as a free man,” Knesset members Zehava Galon, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg from the left-wing Meretz said in a joint statement, claiming the decision was heavily influenced by political pressure.

“Katsav used his political power to rape, and now he has again exploited that same power to get out early,” the statement said.

Zionist Union MK Merav Michaeli called on Katsav to express remorse publicly to his victims.